Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Epiphany Blessing of the Home and Household

The Christmas season, especially the feast of the Epiphany, is a traditional time to bless homes. The Book of Blessings has an official rite which may be used by a priest, deacon, or lay person (Chapter 50). The book of Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers has a short simple rite that may be led by a family member. An interesting rubric in the Book of Blessings says that “a home should not be blessed unless those who live in it are present” (#1599).

Often related to these blessings is a ritual of “chalking” the front door of the home with the numbers of the year separated by the initials, CMB. The letters traditionally refer to the legendary names of the three kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (Scripture neither names them nor says there were three of them). Another tradition refers to it as the abbreviation of the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat, translated as “May Christ bless this house.”

To chalk the door for Epiphany, one would write in chalk on the outside lintel above the front door (or any where on the posts of the doors): 20 + C + M + B 07.

Another tradition that I had learned as a college student was to take the first Christmas card I received that season which had the image of the Three Kings and tape it above the inside horizontal lintel of the front door. Both rituals are meant to remind the household to gladly welcome everyone who comes to your door and to eagerly seek out Christ every time you leave home.

Below is an adapted ritual by Diana Macalintal that you may use at Epiphany in your home.

What you’ll need:
  • some chalk of any color
  • a family Bible
  • candles for each person (small tea lights in plastic or glass containers are best)
  • matches to light candles
  • the words to three Christmas carols
  • a Christmas card with the image of the Three Kings and some adhesive tape
  • A bowl of holy water
  • A leader
  • A person to proclaim the Scripture
  • The oldest and the youngest members of the household to chalk the door
  • Another household member to place the Epiphany card over the door
  • A person to read the litany

Introductory Rites
The family and their friends gather at the front door of the home as a suitable song is sung by all, for example, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

The leader greets those present.

    In the name of the Father, (+) and of the Son,
    and of the Holy Spirit.
    All: Amen.

    Peace be with this house and with all who live here.
    Blessed be God for ever.
    All: Blessed be God for ever.

    Today we gather in this holy place
    to recognize that Christ dwells here.
    As the Three Kings followed the light of the star,
    we too follow the light of Christ to be a place of welcome,
    a people of generosity, and a dwelling place for God.

    The home is called the domestic church.
    It is where we first learn to pray and search for Christ,
    to forgive and receive forgiveness,
    to offer our gifts, and to bless each other.

    Let us then ask God to open our hearts
    so that, as the doors of this home
    are opened to neighbor and traveler,
    this family may be a source of welcome for all in need
    and a place where Christ is found.
Chalking the Door
The leader continues.

    As the words of the Gospel of John are proclaimed, let us consecrate this door and the home it protects to Christ who is the sheepgate. Let this door be the threshold that leads both ways to the blessings and goodness of God.
As the Scripture below is proclaimed, the oldest and the youngest persons of the household may take turns inscribing “20 + C + M + B 07” on the outside lintel of the front door.

Reading of the Word of God
A reader may slowly read the following text of sacred Scripture from the family Bible as the inscription is written over the door – John 1:13-14.

    In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)
    and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)
    and the Word was God. (inscribe +)
    He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)
    All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)
    and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)
    And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)
    and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)
    and we saw his glory, (inscribe 0)
    the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 7)
    full of grace and truth.

    The gospel of the Lord.
    All: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Placing of the Epiphany Card over the Door
As the following Scripture passage is proclaimed, another family member places an Epiphany card over the front door on the inside of the house.

The reader continues as the card is placed (Matthew 2:9-11).

    And behold,
    the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
    until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
    They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
    and on entering the house
    they saw the child with Mary his mother.
    They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Procession into the Home
Those gathered sing an appropriate song, such as “We Three Kings,” as they each receive a lit candle and follow the family into the main gathering space of the home where a bowl of holy water has been prepared.

The leader continues.

    As this household has been given the light of Christ through baptism, let us pray that this home shines radiantly with the love of God to be a shelter of peace for all who visit and dwell in it.
A reader leads the litany.

    Our response is: Make us your dwelling place, Lord.

    With Mary, and Joseph: Make us your dwelling place, Lord.
    With Anne and Joachim:...
    With Elizabeth and Zechariah:
    With Anna and Simeon:
    With the shepherds and the kings:
    With all the angels and saints:
    With all holy men and women:
    For the sick and the hungry:
    For the homeless and the lonely:
    For friend and stranger:
    For neighbor and traveler:
    In our hopes and dreams:
    In our faults and failings:
    In times of joy and peace:
    In times of sadness and grief:
    When anger and fear confuse us:
    When pride and pain confound us:
    When the plans we make must change:
    When you call us home by a different way:
    In all things, great and small:
The leader continues.

    Christ taught us to call upon the Father, and so we pray:
    Our Father…
Prayer of Blessing
Those gathered may place a hand on the shoulder of the person near them as the leader says the following prayer.

    Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation,
    for through your goodness
    you have given us shelter from the cold
    and the light of your Word to brighten the darkness of night.
    We come to you bearing no gifts
    for everything we have is a gift from you.
    All we can offer is our love for each other
    and our faith in your Son.
    Transform, then, these humble gifts into an epiphany,
    a revelation of your divine presence,
    and bless this house and all who come to it.
    May this home and this family be a light
    for all who are lost and afraid,
    a place of peace and hospitality for those in need,
    and a sign that you are indeed God with us.
    And when our long journey has ended,
    lead us all by the star of your mercy
    that we may come home to you
    to the dwelling place you have prepared for us in heaven.
    Grant this through Christ our Lord.
    All: Amen.
All may sign themselves with holy water. If desired, those present may go to various rooms of the home to sprinkle them with holy water.

Concluding Blessing
The leader says the following, making the sign of the cross.

    May God bless us and keep us. (+)
    May his face shine upon us and be gracious to us.
    May God look upon us kindly and give us peace.
    All: Amen.
All sing an appropriate song, such as “Joy to the World.”

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